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Teacher panel to block 'irrelevant' research

THE TEACHER Training Agency is setting up a national panel of teachers to press for research more relevant to classroom practice.

The panel, of around a dozen teachers with research experience and from a range of disciplines, will meet termly to comment on proposals put to the agency for funding. It will help set priorities, and suggest ways of disseminating findings so that they are accessible to ordinary teachers.

The agency says the Department for Education and Employment will also consult the panel about its research policies and other agencies such as the Office for Standards in Education are expected to follow suit.

Education research has come under fire in recent years, with the DFEE and OFSTED criticising much of it as esoteric, marginal or irrelevant to the classroom. Philippa Cordingley, head of research for the agency, said it shared that view.

She said: "Too much of the research is written for an academic audience, not a teacher audience, and too little of it focuses on what teachers do in the classroom, given that is what makes the most difference to children and to raising standards."

The Universities Council for the Education of Teachers welcomed moves to involve teachers in research but warned against narrowing the range of work.

"If we move to a situation where the only research carried out is sponsored by the Government, that would be very dangerous. Universities must be free to research what they think is important," council chairman Mike Newby said.

"Teaching in schools is an important core of research. But I'm worried that that will be seen as the only research that is of value and the only research that gets sponsored."

Part of the agency's remit is to promote teaching as a "research- and evidence-based profession" - both by raising the quality of research and increasing teachers' demand for it.

It gives out around pound;500,000 a year in research grants - funding for 28 new projects will be announced this autumn, the fourth year of awards.

Cash goes to small-scale case studies by individual teachers as well as consortia of schools, local authorities and universities working on larger three-year projects.

Ms Cordingley said: "Teachers say to us it would be helpful

if they were involved at all stages of research so they can say right from the start whether the

priorities are relevant to their needs. Researchers say to us quite often that it's difficult to find teachers with an interest in research to comment on their findings at an early-enough stage."

Around 100 teachers applied to join the panel which aims to be inclusive and to represent all regions, types of school, and subjects. Membership will be for 18 months.

BERA conference, 26-27

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